Florida Gulf Coast

For the state of Florida in this year's NCAA Tournament, good things are coming in 3's.

Miami became the third team from the Sunshine State to advance to the Sweet 16 when the second-seeded Hurricanes beat No. 7 seed Illinois, 63-59, at the Erwin Center on Sunday Night. They joined Florida, who also punched its ticket to the Sweet 16 with a victory at the Erwin Center on Sunday, and Florida Gulf Coast, who beat Miami on Nov. 13 and who became the first No. 15 seed to ever reach the Sweet 16.

"The state of Florida has great basketball teams," Miami guard Shane Larkin said. "Florida Gulf Coast was a team we played early in the season and they beat us. A lot of people gave us grief for that. But now it's just showing that they're a great team... For us, Florida and Florida Gulf Coast being in the Sweet 16 is a great feeling and it just proves that Florida has great basketball teams just like everybody else in the country."

Neither Miami (29-6) nor Illinois (23-13) led by more than seven points in what was a closely contested game throughout, one that sent the Hurricanes to their first Sweet 16 since 2000. With Illinois leading, 55-54, Larkin stepped back and drilled a deep three-pointer to put Miami on top, 57-55, with a minute left to play.

"That's the type of player that he is," Miami forward Julian Gamble said. "We know he's going to will us to victory. He's our leader on the court. To know that we have him on our side and don't have to play against him is a huge advantage for us because I would hate to have to play against a guy like that."

Larkin finished with 17 points on 5-for-12 shooting from the floor and 3-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc, along with five assists. Miami, who got a game-high 21 points on 7-for-14 shooting and 5-for-10 shooting from three-point range from Rion Brown, will face No. 3 seed Marquette in Washington, D.C. on Thursday night.

"I kind of had a mindset of shooting that shot when I came off the ball screen, so I just had a lot of confidence," Larkin said. "I just wanted to go out there and make a big play for my team and I guess luck was just on my side when I shot it."

D.J. Richarson missed a three-pointer for Illinois on the ensuing possession and a loose ball was tipped out of bounds and the Hurricanes were given the ball. Replays appeared to show that the ball was last touched by Miami's Kenny Kadji but, without the ability to review the play, the referees denied the Illini possession.

"You saw the same video that I did," Illinois head coach Jim Groce said. "It's a hard game to officiate. Both teams are physical, both teams desiring the same thing. 50/50 calls are hard sometimes. That's how he saw the play in live speed and I certainly respect the call that he made."

Miami went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the game's final 36 seconds to secure the four-point victory.

"How can you really determine whose hand it went off of?" Gamble said. "From the replay, yes, it did look like it came off of Kenny's hand... I think being a referee is the most difficult job, by far, to not really affect the game but knowing that you have to call the game. In the heat of the moment, you see what you see."

No upset here.

No. 3 seed Florida earned the chance to play more basketball in the Lone Star State after pounding No. 11 seed Minnesota, 78-64, in the Round of 32 at the Erwin Center on Sunday. The Gators will face No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet 16 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Friday. 

"I don't think we'll be sick of Texas as long as we keep winning," Florida guard Casey Prather said.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing Cowboys Stadium," Gators center Patrick Young said.

Florida Gulf Coast became the seventh No. 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history to beat a No. 2 seed when the Eagles shocked Georgetown with an 81-71 victory over the Hoyas on Friday. Then they became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16 after taking down No. 7 seed San Diego State, 81-71, on Sunday.

"I think it'll be good for the state," Prather said of the all-Sunshine State Showdown. "We know seed doesn't mean anything in the NCAA Tournament. Anybody can lose. Anybody can win. Coach [Billy] Donovan does a great job of keeping us ready and keeping us on edge."

With the convincing win over Minnesota (21-13), Donovan has led the Gators (28-7) to three consecutive trips to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. 

"It speaks volumes about the type of players Coach Donovan recruits and the type of coach he is," Prather said.

After pounding No. 14 seed Northwestern State, 79-47, on Friday, Florida got off to a fast start against Minnesota. The Gators went on a 27-5 run and held a 48-27 lead at halftime. Mike Rosario scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the first half and Erik Murphy scored all of his 15 points during the first 20 minutes. 

"We just couldn't stop them at anything in the first half," Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith said. "Maybe we're just a slow starting team for the most part."

The Golden Gophers, who got 25 points from Andre Hollins, didn't go away without a fight. They went on a 13-2 run to start the second half and trimmed Florida's lead to as few as seven points but their comeback attempt fell short. 

After picking up its first NCAA Tournament win since reaching the Final Four in 1997 with a 20-point thumping of UCLA on Friday, Minnesota suffered their second-worst NCAA Tournament loss in school history. 

With the win, Florida improved to 28-1 in games decided by double digits this year. The Gators have yet to win a game decided by fewer than 10 points, going 0-6 in such contests.

"It's big, definitely to do it on this stage," Florida guard Kenny Boynton said of how the Gators closed out the game. "That's not going to be the last time we're going to be in that situation. I think every game from here on out is going to be close or a team will go on a run. It's great that our team has that confidence going into the Sweet 16."